Two boats burn in Lagoon Pond

Witnesses report hearing explosions before seeing flames.


Two sailboats, rafted together and anchored in Lagoon Pond, were destroyed by fire Wednesday near the Lagoon drawbridge in Oak Bluffs.

“They burned to their shells,” Barbara Kopans, a board member of the Lagoon Pond Association and an eyewitness to the fire, said.

Ms. Kopans made the initial emergency call shortly before 1 pm. “I heard the explosion,” she said.

Thick black smoke billowed in the air as firefighters rushed to the scene. The smoke could be seen as far away as Falmouth and Mashpee.

A Times employee who was at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and was sitting outside described hearing a “big pop” and then seeing the flames. “I looked up and the thing was engulfed in flames,” Geoff Currier said.

Once the fire was doused by the Oak Bluffs fireboat, the smoke turned white.

Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose said one of the boat owners was on one of the vessels shortly before they started to burn. He did not identify the owner or the port of origin of the vessels.

A family of three identified as owners of one of the boats declined to speak with a Times reporter as they waited for it to be hauled into the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard.

No one was injured.

A Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter responded to the scene without being called in, Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling said.

Ms. Kopans said it took as much as 20 minutes for the first fireboat to arrive. “They were totally engulfed in flames,” she said. “It was very disheartening to see the response to a serious fire here on the Lagoon.”

Shellfish beds are closed at least through Saturday as a result of the fire as a precaution, according to Oak Bluffs shellfish constable David Grunden.

A containment boom that was distributed in the water at the site of the fire was precautionary, Chief Rose said. Crews observed no sheen on the water from a fuel spill, he said.

One of the owners told officials one vessel had 10 gallons of diesel aboard, and the other had five gallons of gasoline, the chief said. Chief Rose said he believes the fire consumed all the fuel. He said his department has ceded control of the vessels to Sea Tow.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The fire response was commanded jointly by both Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, Chief Schilling said, with Tisbury crews assisting Oak Bluffs’ response.

According to Chief Schilling, Oak Bluffs Deputy Chief Shawn Broadley was working at nearby Granite City Electric Supply when the boats began to burn. He immediately set up a command post at the Lagoon Pond ramp, Chief Schilling said.

In an odd coincidence, Tisbury performed drills for a boat fire Monday night in the Lagoon at the same location where the boats burned, Chief Schilling said. The fire is the fourth boat fire in the past month.
One of the vessels sank to the bottom of the Lagoon, according to Sea Tow owner Ramsey Chason. Mr. Chason said a diver is at the scene, and that Sea Tow plans to bring it up from the Lagoon bed with float bags, and that the other vessel will be secured with float bags too. Both vessels are slated to be hauled into the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, Mr. Chason said.

Staff members George Brennan, Bella Bennett, Madeleine Moore, and Stacey Rupolo contributed to this report.




  1. I am actually very impressed that the fire personnel from OB and VH got there in 20 minutes. They are all volunteers, work all over, they had to leave their jobs, fight through holiday traffic, get to the fire boats and then get to the fire. Thank goodness we have such dedicated individuals who are willing to volunteer their time to keep us safe. In a perfect world maybe the response time would be better if we had full time paid fire personnel, but we don’t, so I would rather praise these individuals for keeping everyone safe and containing the fire, than question the response time, which in my mind was very fast based on the constraints these individuals face.

  2. Four boat fires in a month?!

    In a previous Times article on the Tashmoo boat fire, Harbormaster Crocker is quoted as saying,“It’s strange because boat fires are pretty rare,” he said.

    What’s going on here?

  3. I’m not sure what Ms, Kopans finds “disheartening” about the response. That it took 20 minutes or that the FD responded at all.

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